The Liberal National Government will support all 17 recommendations of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire by Euan Ferguson AFSM, including the implementation of a Rural Fire Service, Premier Colin Barnett said today.
"Mr Ferguson has recommended the establishment of a Rural Fire Service and emphasises the importance of local knowledge and experience in fighting bushfires in his report," Mr Barnett said.
"The State's volunteer firefighters do a magnificent job and their expertise in fighting bush fires needs to be better utilised.
"The State Government will establish a Rural Fire Service as either a separate agency or sub-department of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).
"Consultation will take place with relevant agencies such as the Department of Parks and Wildlife, DFES, local government, volunteer firefighters and the United Firefighters Unions of WA to investigate the best model."
Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said that significantly, the implementation of many of the recommendations had already started ahead of this year's bushfire season.
"Western Australia has suffered terrifying and catastrophic fires in recent years, and we will do everything we can to respond accordingly," Mr Francis said.
"The State Government also supported in principle all 23 agency opportunities for improvement identified by Mr Ferguson."
Regional Development and Lands Minister Terry Redman said work was underway to address bushfire risk on Government-owned land which would be supported with an additional $15 million over four years from Royalties for Regions.
"The need for a greater emphasis on preventing and mitigating risk on Crown land was identified as a key issue by Mr Ferguson and the Government has reacted swiftly to allocate additional funding to this area ahead of the 2016-17 bushfire season," Mr Redman said.
"The increased funding will be accessible to various State Government agencies responsible for land within and adjacent to regional townsites as part of Government's strong desire to see a more co-ordinated approach to address risks on Crown land."
Many of Mr Ferguson's recommendations were being implemented ahead of the upcoming bushfire season. These included:
- establishing five pre-formed multi agency incident management teams for level 3 incidents, which include representation from both Government and volunteers
- installing Automated Vehicle Location Systems in vehicles and appliances at a cost of $2.4 million
- establishing a $2.8 million critical messaging system by November 2016 which will issue warnings and provide advice on fire danger ratings and total fire bans. The information will be available on a new Emergency WA website to be promoted through the Are You Ready bushfire campaign
- issuing identification cards to DFES volunteers in high-risk regions.
A new Office of Emergency Management (OEM), comprising the State Emergency Management Committee Secretariat and the Office of Bushfire Risk Management will also be established.
There would also be an independent review into the Emergency Services Levy.
"The new OEM will have a quality assurance role and report directly to the Minister for Emergency Services," Mr Francis said.
"From the public comments received in response to the Ferguson Report, the majority of stakeholders and community members were supportive of his recommendations.
"While the Government is moving as quickly as possible to enact measures ahead of the bushfire season, structural recommendations will be developed in a considered way to ensure that as a community, we are more resilient to emergencies in the future."
Premier's office - 6552 5000
Emergency Services Minister's office - 6552 6500
Regional Development and Lands Minister's office - 6552 6700